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Forecasts for the implementation of Ukraine’s foreign policy during the period of Volodymyr Zelensky’s presidency

After the crushing defeat of Petro Poroshenko in the presidential elections, social networks are overwhelmed with emotions - from anger and despair to joy and euphoria of others. The supporters of the current President, including many intellectuals and moral authorities, draw gloomy forecasts about the future of Ukraine under the presidency of Volodymyr Zelensky. ВВС News Ukraine asked experts to foresee what, in their opinion, can be the advantages of the activities of Mr. Zelensky as head of state? Their assessments, of course, are based on hypothetical assumptions, because there are many risks, and it is still unknown what reforms the newly elected President will start and who and how will implement them.

Most of the interviewed by the ВВС News Ukraine believe that the election of a person outside the existing political system for the post of President will lead to a change of elites and the emergence of "fresh blood" in state bodies. A new person in politics will lead to the transformation of the Ukrainian political system and the emergence of new elites. And the consequences would be, regardless of whether it was Volodymyr Zelensky or another "non-system" candidate.

"A new, non-system person in power is the first and greatest advantage. This means that he does not have the old practices of "solving problems" that have been stored in Ukrainian politics for 30 years. That is, he will not be able to work in the old way, because it is necessary to learn, and he will not have time to learn this," said political scientist, executive director of the Ukrainian Institute for the Future and a supporter of Volodymyr Zelensky, Viktor Andrusiv, in a comment to BBC News Ukraine. "The main advantage is that we managed to shake the Ukrainian political elite, represented by President Poroshenko.[1] People who did not support the old elite showed by their votes that, despite the correctness of statements and intentions, the actions did not give the desired results for a significant number of Ukrainians. And this is a signal to the entire political elite, not only to Petro Poroshenko," political scientist Valerii Klochok believes.

A high level of support gives legitimacy to action and to reduce the dependence on oligarchs. "High public support is a big advantage. At least, he (Volodymyr Zelensky. - Ed.) will have unconditional legitimacy for making important decisions. Having received more than 70% of trust, he can directly appeal to the Verkhovna Rada and put pressure on Parliament. It is likely that his team will try to implement reforms that were not implemented by the previous President," political scientist Peter Oleshchuk said. "Although, of course, now the biggest problem is that we really do not know for sure what to expect from Volodymyr Zelensky. Also, much will depend on the environment - where it will direct him. It is possible that in the near future everything will turn into a struggle within the groups of influence and, accordingly, it will reduce the effectiveness of the President," adds the analyst in the comments to BBC News Ukraine. "Volodymyr Zelensky is the first President who does not need large channels to communicate with voters. His Internet resources and network of supporters are so large that he will calmly communicate his ideas and plans without using oligarchic channels. This means that the oligarchs will not be able to blackmail him with their media resources, as they did with others," Victor Andrusiv from the Ukrainian Institute for the Future said.

The foreign policy course towards the EU and NATO is unlikely to change. The threat of revising the course of accession to the EU and NATO, initiated by Petro Poroshenko, many associated with the coming to power of Vladimir Zelensky. However, at least recent weeks have shown that the newly elected President does not deny these intentions. "The foreign policy will remain the same. Ukraine will not go off course for NATO and the EU. Volodymyr Zelensky supports it in public statements and the Western vector was visualized by his trip to France. Therefore, there will be no critical situation, the visa-free regime will remain," Valerii Klochok says. " If the list of actions of the country in the foreign policy will be clearly stated and these actions will be implemented, then the name of the President - Poroshenko or Zelensky, will not matter for Western partners," political scientist Peter Onishchuk believes. The political observer Olga Musafirova notes that before the second round of elections, Volodymyr Zelensky made some statements that give grounds for consider that he doesn't intend to change the Pro-European course of Ukraine and considers Vladimir Putin the enemy of Ukraine. "And the transformation declarations of intent into actions will be controlled by the media and civil society institutions," she adds.[2]

He never earned on the budget, has a successful experience of creating a team. Some experts attribute to the advantages of Volodymyr Zelensky his differences from traditional Ukrainian politicians, who have long been immersed in power structures. "Zelensky's business, which he built himself, is completely independent of the state budget. Therefore, his presidency may not have the purpose of personal enrichment," said Viktor Andrusiv. To the advantages political scientist also refers to the successful experience of creating a team that has not changed over the years: "He knows how to build a team work. All this is very important for policy and reforms."

Consolidation of national-patriotic forces, emergence of constructive opposition. Experts foresee that Volodymyr Zelensky may become an "irritant" of the emergence of constructive opposition in Ukraine and the unification of those who are ready to defend the achievements of previous years. "The victory of Zelensky should mobilize the part of society that believes that the protection of national statehood is a priority. And the newly elected President is a very good irritant for this," political scientist Mykhaylo Basarab said.

Foreign policy under the Constitution is the responsibility of the President, regardless of whether the Verkhovna Rada will support Zelensky's submission regarding the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Therefore, in this field, the new head of state should show outstanding talent in the conditions of guaranteed internal difficulties. The most high-profile local problems that Zelensky will try to solve may be related to Hungary and Poland. The issue of national minorities, for which Viktor Orban is very concerned, will be the subject of discussion.

In addition to Poland and Hungary, an important component will be the preservation of cooperation with the IMF, the EU, and the United States. Zelensky must demonstrate the continuity of the course, to preserve the anti-Russian coalition. The United States Special Representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, said that the United States will stay in Ukraine for a long time. And the EU is ready to accept any President. But the main expectations of Ukrainians associated with the new President in foreign policy relate to the negotiations with Russia. Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) survey shows that 23.3% of respondents hope for this. Zelensky, who promised peace in the Donbas and the expansion of the Normandy format at the expense of the U.S. and the UK, will be forced to engage in dialogue. But will Moscow join? It is possible that Putin will try to bargain something from the Ukrainian President in exchange for the release of some of our prisoners. This will be especially relevant against the background of possible failures of Zelensky in domestic policy until the autumn due to opposition of the Parliament and the loss of ratings. But it is clear that the foreign policy of Zelensky towards Russia is unlikely to be very different from the one practiced by Poroshenko. Because the comedian is not a suicide. And the key to peace located in Moscow.[3]

Given the above assessment, it is clear that the world will observe the implementation of foreign policy of Ukraine after the inauguration of Zelensky. Nevertheless, although it is expected to renew the political power of Ukraine, it is unlikely that Ukraine's foreign policy will undergo significant changes.



[2] Ibid.